Creating Emma Chamberlain, the Most Interesting Girl on YouTube
Saturday, June 15, 2019
YouTube was founded in San Mateo, California, on February 14, 2005. Four years earlier, Emma Chamberlain was also born in the Bay Area.
While many YouTubers try to keep their videos as streamlined and glossy as possible, Chamberlain’s vlogs are distinctive because of her stream-of-consciousness, hyperreal style—intercutting passages with outtakes, dropping in footage of herself editing (usually in an oversize hoodie in the middle of the night, by the glow of her screen), and adding unexpected filters, zooms, and sound cues. Since then, plenty of vloggers, both new and old, have adopted Chamberlain’s techniques. “I had never seen anyone edit the way that I edit before I did it, and it’s just what felt right to me,” she says. “It’s definitely become a popular style now, which is super cool. But I had never seen anyone else do it, and that’s why I was scared to put it out there. I was like, Is this even going to resonate?”
As she developed her core audience and her subscriber count grew, Chamberlain made the decision, with the support of her parents, to leave school (she’s since gotten her G.E.D.) and focus full-time on vlogging. But without a place to go every day to interact with peers, and with old so-called friends turning on her, it was not the life that she expected. “I was very lonely and, honestly, in an awful mental state there,” she says. So she reached out to her online community. “I basically had no friends and was doing YouTube out of my bedroom at home. It was very dark, and dreary, and boring,” she recalls. “I didn’t have anyone. That was why I wanted to be a part of the YouTube community so badly. Not because I was like, Oh, my God, I want to be famous and hang out with this famous YouTuber. I wanted a social structure.”
She went to VidCon, in Anaheim, near Los Angeles, in 2018, and got her first real taste of what it was like to be a YouTube star. “That was the first time that people were coming up to me and knowing who I was and saying, ‘Your videos are great,’” she says. In June 2018, at 17 years old, she moved out of her mom’s home in the Bay Area and into her own apartment in L.A. “That’s when I met all of my best friends that I currently have,” she says. “They are all genuine friends. We have each other’s back, and there’s nothing suspicious about it.”
“I’ve dealt with a lot of people with bad intentions,” she says. “Just because somebody has a following does not mean that they are a good person or a good friend. And I should have known that. I’ve fucked myself over a few times believing that. I don’t know why I thought there was a correlation—if anything, I prefer to have friends who are maybe not even YouTubers. Four of my best friends are YouTubers, but that’s just a coincidence. I’ve been backstabbed multiple times—literally, at least 10, just off the top of my head—by other YouTubers, and it’s awful.”
While other YouTubers might turn such aggression into vlog ammo (and means toward higher viewer counts), Chamberlain has never publicly gone low. “I don’t need to bash,” she says, point-blank. “It’s unnecessary.”
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